A panel of women’s rights activists met today to raise awareness of the tragic and vicious murders of nearly 2,000 women since 2001 in Guatemala, a situation that has gone largely unnoticed by the international community. While, according to Center for Legal Action on Human Rights, the murder rate for both men and women in Guatemala has increased since the nearly four-decade long internal conflict ended in 1996, the murder of women often includes torture, sexual violence, or mutilation that is gender-based and which often goes unreported or misreported.
Hosted by Representatives Hilda Solis (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), the panel featured speakers from the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International USA, the Center for Legal Action on Human Rights, and the Washington Office on Latin America. Also speaking was Maria Elena Peralta, sister of murder victim Nancy Karina Peralta, who has pursued her sister’s case since her murder on February 1, 2002. After encountering only resistance and derision by governmental authorities, Peralta now attends law school in order to speak, as she stated today, not only on behalf of her sister but on behalf of all victims.
Peralta also spoke about the level of fear that the victims’ families live with and the impunity which with the murders are committed. While the number of similar murders of women since January 2001 is suspected to be nearly 2,000, Amnesty International (AI) reports that only 1,188 are recognized by the Guatemalan government as having occurred between 2001 and 2004 and only nine percent of those deaths have had cases opened. AI also reports that those investigations are often marred by a lack of communication between governmental agencies, incomplete work, and the improper collection of evidence.